Yvonne Wake – super foods, super woman
Yvonne Wake, 64, lives between the South West of France and South East London. Safe to say, Yvonne is a multi-hypenated kind of person who is, among other things, a nutrition expert, qualified aerobics instructor (who trained with Jane Fonda – YES! – and once took a class with Barbara Streisand, Liza Minelli, and Bette Midler – honestly, read on…), teaches a University class and runs a family-owned kids’ summer camp. Phew. Oh, and she has three children, Laurent, 37, Holly, 30, and Sophie-Rose, 27. I just had to have a chat with Yvonne to find out how she fits it all in, hear all about her wonderful French retreat, and what it was really like working out next to Liza Minelli…
[Read the first in the ‘women inspiring women series, with Caroline Watson, stylist and bag designer, here, the second, with kids’ fashion designer Jessica Seaman, here, the third, with lifestyle PR guru Shosh Kazab, here, and the fourth, with fashion and beauty blogger Danie Vanier, here.]
How would you describe your jobs, and how much of your time do they take up?
My ‘job’ is definitely not just ‘one’ job, but a few. I have always had varied work situations as my interests float between health, and fitness and education for children. My main love, though, is in health, wellbeing and lifestyle, and I run Wellbeing & Lifestyle Health Detox Retreats (pictured above) in France for up to 10 people at a time.
I have taught at Roehampton University since 2008, but am stopping at the end of this year as I want to concentrate on my Health Retreats, and extend the periods of time that they run for. Right now, I run them for the month of June and two weeks in September.
I also run a summer camp for children aged 3 – 12 years for five weeks every summer, in Barnes, London. I am very lucky, as I have loved my working life always. I love helping people to find inner peace with my life coaching work and love the way they look and feel after attending one of my Health Retreats. It’s all positive!
You have lived many interesting lives, it seems – what have been some of your personal highlights?
Living in Paris, for 10 years as a 19 – 29 year old, was amazing. This was in the early ’70s. I speak fluent French, have a son from my first marriage to a French man and my memories of that period are unique and special. When I came back to the UK after that, I started the first ladies-only health club in the world in Covent Garden. It was called The Gym @ The Sanctuary, and, as a feminist, you can imagine that I am proud of that. I opened a second ‘Ladies only Health Club’ called The Phillimore Club in Kensington and that was an equally proud moment. But without doubt, being mum to three fabulous children has to be amongst my proudest!
What was your biggest setback and how did you overcome it?
I have been married three times. My first marriage, in France, came to an end quite softly and without difficulty, however, I married again, and had what I thought was the perfect life. Then, after 15 years of marriage my second husband came out as a Gay man. We had two children together. It was my saddest time ever. I overcame this, because I had no option but to accept it and embrace it. And, for the sake of my children, learn to live with it. I learned a lot from it and as a result, eventually, we all grouped together, and it works. Our children are totally cool and we spend many lovely moments together as ‘a family’, with my ex’s male partner, too.
Stretching at morning yoga at Yvonne’s French retreat [Instagram @YvonneWake_]
Did you ever feel held back in the workplace, because you are a woman? If so, how did you conquer that?
No, I did not actually. I am a strong minded person and I am not easy to control! I am a Leo and my Chinese sign is Dragon. Therefore, I feel empowered enough to not let anyone tell me how to live my life. I am very positive and take responsibility for myself and always have done. I think woman are great leaders, and I have always been inspired by female world leaders.
How have you gained confidence within your working role?
My working role has mainly been at the helm of my own businesses and I honestly think that my confidence grew because I made a success of them. Success breeds confidence and, although I do love working with men, I have always felt comfortable surrounded by a team of diligent women of all ages.
What would you say is the first step people can take to being more confident in themselves?
Loving themselves is the classic answer to that, but that’s easier said than done. I would say that we need to be so very honest with ourselves about what we can and can’t achieve. Don’t set our goals too high to start with, surrender to things that we know we don’t do well and get help from someone who can do it. We all have great skills, so find out what they are and go for it. Make mistakes and learn from them.
You run a retreat in France, which sounds wonderful – can you tell our readers a little about why they might like to visit?
The Detox Health Retreat in France (pictured above and below) is a safe nurturing place, where you can go to just ‘stop’. Your life will slow down to such a pace that you will come away feeling like a new person. You will eat Organic food prepared by experts and you will learn how to change the way you live your life forever. We are all ‘on the go’ from morning ’til night and it’s no secret that our lifestyles are making us ill, without us realising it. A week at The Retreat will teach you how to return to the ‘mad’ worlds that we all occupy most of the time, but with new knowledge and motivation to be better at looking after ourselves. You will rest up, sleep loads, be massaged, be motivated and inspired by others who attend, and basically stop and reflect, within the most sublime surroundings in rural France.
What would you say to women who are interested in starting a career in your industry?
I would honestly say – get qualified. There are lots of good courses out there, and it might feel pricey at the time, but it will pay off. Professionalism is everything, as it relates to health, so get qualified and go out there and save the world! There are so many fake nutritionists and lifestyle counsellors on the move at the moment that the wrong information is getting out there and confusing the life out of the general public. It’s making it very difficult for the general public to learn anything important.
Why is wellbeing important? And how is it different from faddy diets?
Wellbeing is important because we cannot rely on being ‘healed’ by the medical profession in the UK alone (and in other countries too). There are so many diseases and conditions that arise from our lifestyles, that the medical profession cannot keep up. Faddy diets are not the best approach as they are short lived. Losing weight is important for wellbeing, but not if the dietary intake contains the wrong nutrients and leaves out the important vitamins that often are not included in fad diets.
What are your three top tips for energising your life?
Eat proper nutritious food, exercise for about one hour a day (walking to work is included in the one hour), and don’t waste time with people who bring nothing to your life – they zap your energy!
You trained with Jane Fonda in the ‘80s to be an aerobic instructor, so iconic! What is your ‘fondest’ memory of that time?
My best and most gobsmacking (I hate that word, but this story sums it up) memory is that after the course in LA, my friend and I had to do 30 hours of aerobic classes in New York to get our certificate. The first class we went into had Barbara Streisand, Liza Minelli, and Bette Midler prancing around in there – among about 20 other people. I could not take my eyes off these three women who were all very ordinary looking, with the regulation leg warmers and head bands on (tres ’70s/’80s). I was, of course, a huge fan of all three!
Yvonne in the ’80s, in regulation leotard and tights…
What is your favourite/best social media tool?
Facebook. It works for me personally as a tool as I like to expand my information. I do have Twitter and Instagram, but it feels like the messages vanishes very quickly.
Follow Yvonne on Instagram
Visit Yvonne’s retreats online, for more information and to book
- Read the first in our ‘women inspiring women’ series, with Caroline Watson, stylist and bag designer, here.
- Read our interview with Poppy + Ned kids’ fashion designer Jessica Seaman, here.
- Read our interview with lifestyle pR guru Shosh Kazab, here.
- Read our interview with fashion and beauty blogger Danie Vanier, here.